A mystery dying for a laugh

The Perfect Murder

Malvern Theatres

****

IT SEEMS  very on-trend to combine a murder mystery with a suspect list of celebrities. If it isn't household names turning up in Marple or Poirot, there's a celebrity spot or two to be had in Midsomer Murders.

This who-dunnit is very much in the same vein with a cast of TV favourites led by Les Dennis, Claire Goose and Gray O'Brien, who are backed up by Steven Miller from Casualty and Simona Armstrong - a finalist in singing reality show How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?

There's also the added bonus that this thriller has plenty of substance, plus a touch of comedy, as it is penned by crime novelist Peter James, who has developed complex plots for his Roy Grace series.

In this story we see a young Detective Grace investigate his first homicide case.

The stage is split between the home of an unhappily married couple Victor and Joan Smiley (Les Dennis and Claire Goose who wonderfully bicker throughout) and a brothel in Brighton, where Victor regularly visits eastern European prostitute Kamila. She in turn is getting separate visits from Det Grace as her psychic abilities are helping to solve murders in the area.

It may seem a little slow to get going but all the foundations are being laid for what will ultimately be revealed as the "perfect murder".

Be warned, there are some plot holes if you delve too deeply into the hows and probability of everything taking place, but it bubbles along nicely to be a gentle, entertaining, above-average mystery.

The script also has some nice touches by name-checking popular culture when murder mystery-obsessed Victor bemoans the CSIs and NCIS' of America against his beloved UK television detectives. He even lives by the rule "WWSD" (What would Sherlock Do?), while his wife is more interested in the new Sherlock Holmes for his "nice bum". 

Talking about detectives, Steven Miller, who played Dr Lenny Lyons in Casualty, splendidly hits just the right note as the serious, arduous copper in this tale.

If you like a murder mystery, then you won't go wrong with this witty piece of theatre. Case closed.

To 15-02-14.

Alison Brinkworth 

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